By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
When Super Bowl XLVII is played Feb. 3 in New Orleans, it will be the final game for one of the greatest players in NFL history.
There is no arguing what Ray Lewis has accomplished on the field. I will be watching as Lewis steps out of the tunnel to delight his fans with the customary Ray Lewis dance. It is a shameless quivering, boogie of self promotion. I hope he trips.
It seems since Lewis announced his retirement the NFL has willed this great warrior to make it to the Super Bowl. I willed him to lose, but lost the battle of wills.
Meanwhile another NFL veteran announced his pending retirement with no fanfare. Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez did not dance. He did not run to the middle of the field for all cameras to capture his greatness. He just played great, lost, and rode into the sunset. I’m rooting for that guy.
Gonzalez is a 13-time Pro Bowl selection that holds the NFL record for touchdowns (107) and yardage (14,268) by a tight end.
He was a basketball and football star at Huntington Beach, Ca. As a senior, he shared Orange County athletes of the year award with a fellow named Tiger Woods. Gonzalez went on to play both sports in college before giving up basketball due to the tough transition between the two sports.
The Kansas City Chiefs traded up in the NFL draft to select Gonzalez 13th. His rookie season the Chiefs had the best record in the AFC. His best year with Kansas City came in 2006 when he caught 102 passes, an NFL record for a tight end that stood until Jason Whitten broke the mark this year. He still holds 17 NFL records.
His claim to fame off the field is saving the life of another diner that was choking.
Lewis has also played 13 seasons with 10 selections to the Pro Bowl. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2000 and 2003. He was also Super Bowl MVP in 2000.
His claim to fame off the field is an Atlanta bar fight in January 2007 that led to an indictment for murder and aggravated assault. He pled guilty to obstruction of justice in exchange for testimony against two other defendants. The white suit Lewis was wearing at the time was never found. He reached out of court settlements on civil cases by the families of both murder victims. The knife used in the killings was traced back to a sporting goods store where Lewis signed autographs the day before. A receipt was produced from the store with Lewis’ signature.
Maybe Lewis wasn’t guilty, but there is no denying he was running with thugs. I just wish that somewhere along the way he had found humility. I don’t wish ill will on Lewis. He is a great player and deserves recognition. But I can’t root for him. And when he does his little dance I would rather watch Manti Te’o’s girlfriend.